World Evangelical body head visits Pope Francis

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance (R)at an inter-religious meeting June 28, 2011 at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva with the general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Olav Fykse Tveit (C) and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (L), president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

A delegation of the World Evangelical Alliance has met with Pope Francis and representatives of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with group pointing to a new stage in relations.

They talked about areas of potential collaboration to address global issues of common concerns to both, the evangelical community and the Roman Catholic Church, the WEA said in a statement Thursday.

Pope Francis expressed his confidence that the Holy Spirit "can inaugurate a new stage in the relations between Catholics and Evangelicals."

Francis said this is "a stage that allows us to realize more fully the will of the Lord to bring the Gospel even to the furthest ends of the earth," the Vatican press service reported.

Pope Francis said he was pleased to learn of efforts in various countries to build better relations between Catholic and Evangelicals.

He pointed especially to the work of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

Francis also expressed his hope that a joint document, "Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct" might "become a motive of inspiration for the proclamation of the Gospel in multi-religious contexts.

In his address, Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the WEA, outlined specific action steps for the two world church bodies that could lead to a 'new era in evangelical and Roman Catholic relations'.

"We acknowledge the differences between our traditions, yet also affirm the common tasks we have shared in the past and pray that we can build on those," said Tunnicliffe.

"Evangelicals are a very diverse group that includes peoples and churches from Pentecostal traditions, Reformed, Baptist and independents.

"We share a common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and a desire to serve God's kingdom, we have a heart to encourage personal spiritual renewal and transformation and a passion to make Jesus known around the world.

"As we seek to obey Christ, we see this time as a new era in Evangelical/Roman Catholic relations."

Tunnicliffe highlighted that within the WEA's constituency of 7 regional and 129 national Evangelical Alliances, there are many countries where believers of both communities work together.

"It is important that the world knows that there are many localized partnerships between Catholics and Evangelicals, which are developing into large-scale collaborations in response to tragic social problems," he said.

"For example, we know that in many cities around the world, Evangelical and Roman Catholic Christians are cooperating to respond to human trafficking, while at the same time Evangelical and Catholic scholars and activists have begun collaborating to analyze and respond to the terrible problems of religious persecution."

At the Vatican meeting, the WEA suggested the Cradle of Christianity Fund2, nuclear weapons disarmament and seeking justice for the extreme poor as some specific areas of possible collaboration between the WEA and the Holy See.

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